We sat down with Wayne Baskin, the CTO and Deputy CEO of Booktopia, to discuss the future of retail and how he makes himself the best leader possible.
Booktopia remains one of the most popular online bookstores in Australia. With more than four million titles under its roof, the bookseller continues to outshine its rivals. Wayne was granted the Industry Recognition Award at the 2019 ORIAs, awarded to those who are considered the best of the best in retail. “I didn’t think I’d get it!” Mr Baskin said.
Up against nominees such as Shane Lenton (CUE), Jason Kencevski (Speedmaster) and Natalie Wakeling (Embody Women), Mr Baskin won the award for his ‘leadership to the benefit of the broader Australian online retail industry’ and making a ‘meaningful and significant contribution to the health of online retail that may not be visible to the broader industry’.
Working in retail, Mr Baskin has seen a myriad of trends, profits and losses. David Jones’ comment about retail falling into a recession left shockwaves throughout the industry, with Amazon and JB Hi-Fi shutting down the claims. Despite many retailers feeling the pinch of dropping sales, Booktopia is experiencing the opposite. “It’s a big comment, and the word ‘recession’ means we’re going backwards. If I look at the retail market, it has slowed. We know that. The retail spend has slowed for a number of reasons. However, house prices are falling, there are wage growth decreases and mortgage repayments have gone up because of interest regulation. This all means that our customers are looking to educate themselves and save money. And when they do that, the people that benefit from it are in education, and non-professional, non-fiction is actually benefiting from that,” Mr Baskin explained. “So, we’re seeing much better numbers than we ever expected. We’re above forecast and well above last year’s numbers. When I heard that retail is on the down, I was a bit shocked.”
Aside from keeping physical books alive, Wayne keeps the store moving as fast as possible with the use of automation. “We’re investing in further automation to ensure that, come Christmas, that we can deliver same-day to our customers and continue to obsess about our customers,” he said. Using in-house automation software and technology, Booktopia can focus on the customer while the warehouse management software does the heavy lifting.
The next generation of shoppers is becoming concerned with the products they purchase. Trust, environmental impact and messaging are some of the most important things that influence a purchase, according to a new study. Wayne has hopes to draw the next generation away from excessive screens, and back into the pages of a physical book. “I’m trying to pull people away from screens, and away from digital devices. My feeling is people are too locked in their digital device, and the feedback that we get from a lot of people, old and young, is that they love a book. They’re not distracted by anything when they’re reading a book. Whereas, if they’re trying to do e-books on their phones or tablets, all it takes is one little notification and they’re no longer educating themselves or they’re no longer entertaining themselves,” he said.
Wayne doesn’t just promote self-learning to his customers – it’s a philosophy that he stands by for his own personal growth. Following his win of the Industry Recognition Award, Wayne enjoys working with other partners to better himself and constantly evolve as a leader. “I, myself, like to work with other partners and work with other people. So, whether that’s in an advisory role, other retail businesses; smaller business; partnering with larger online retail businesses – no matter what you do, or how big or small that company that you’re working with is, you’re always going to learn something,” he explained. “Every time you go to [an event], you learn something, just from being there. For me, it’s working on Booktopia, bettering Booktopia for the customer, but also bettering myself by helping others and learning from what they’re doing, and sharing my knowledge at the same time.”
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